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In April We Read…

This month Sugarbooks had chosen to read Styxx by Sherrilyn Kenyon.  Now when this book was chosen there was a lot of groaning from many of our members (since there are only six of us actively coming to meetings and making decisions you can imagine how loud the groaning was).  Anyway, we made the decision in December last year and last month as we were leaving dinner the reminder that Styxx was the book for the next meeting, some “I’m not reading it” were heard.  We have a rule (it’s not always followed but we have it) that states you have to at least read 100 pgs of the book assigned for the month.   With this in mind we still had some “I’m not reading it”. 

One of the members decided to brave it and start the book two weeks before the meeting.  When she found out how many pages the book had (876), she sent out an email with a WTH. :o)  She started it and finished it in 2 ½ days.  She then got on email and started commenting that put a fire under the other members kettle that had them reading it (yep…even the “I’m not reading its”).  Some of us had not read Acheron (and some still had not read any of the Dark Hunters series), but we felt that it was important to at least read Acheron first.  You did not want to read Acheron after you read Styxx first.  I think we all agreed, reading them backwords would have caused some feelings that could possibly be avoided if you read them in the right sequence. 

So here is our take on Styxx (If you have not read this book , there may be some references that could be deemed spoilers, just a heads up).  We all agreed it was a good book, we all agreed it caused emotions to be brought forth, and we all agreed that the men during the early part of the book (even in Acheron) were into a lot of rape and sodomy.  The first half of the book dealt with Styxx being raped by his uncle(until he killed him and that wasn’t until he had been abused on three or four separate occasions that lasted anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months) and some of the gods.  We all agreed that we were not fans of the gods in both stories.  That is where the agreement ends. 

There was a member that ended up with a dislike for Acheron after reading this book and she had been a huge fan previously.  It took a lot of deducing and reasoning before she could put her finger on what she deemed the ultimate betrayal – you don’t forsake your sibling to be tortured regardless of your reasons, and you then don’t walk around like they’re in the wrong EVER.  To her, that was making yourself into a victim – I was done wrong so they deserve to have wrong done to them too; you help/protect your siblings, you don’t make them victims too.  Styxx never made his siblings victims if he could help it; he protected them as much as he was possible although he sometimes was punished for it and they (his siblings) still treated him like dirt.   She didn’t like how Acheron  assumed that Artemis placed his brother somewhere where he was taken care of for 1100 years, when he knew Artemis to be a liar.  How can Ach believe people that have lied to him and mistreated him for most of his life and not allow his brother to even try to explain.  It didn’t sit well with that member and she was not changing her mind.

There were several members that were disgusted with Styxx and his inability to defend himself against his uncle and father.   As one member stated “he could maybe get away with catching him unaware one or maybe two times, but after that he should have been walking around with his mouth clamped shut and his back to a wall whenever his uncle was around.”  Styxx had become a feared and respected warrior and leader to his father’s army, yet he still was getting assaulted by his uncle.  Why did Styxx allow his father to punish him when they felt the army had his back?  Why not over-throw the king or kill him?  They didn’t feel like Styxx stood up for himself enough and because of it he seemed almost like a victim. 

We all agreed we did not like Ryssa, the sister.  We couldn’t figure out where her hatred for Styxx came from.  There was no reason for the type of hatred she had.  Even reading Acheron (some of us reread Ach and some read it for the first time), which had a large portion of the beginning of the book coming from Ryssa’s diary; we never ascertained why she disliked Styxx.

The culmination of the epic novel had a great HEA and we all agreed that we were happy with the ending.  Sherrilyn has done it again, sucking us into a great story that brought forth all emotions.  If you have not read it yet we all highly recommend it.  And we would love to hear your thoughts on it.  If you have read it, give us a holler and tell us what you thought.  

Next month we are scheduled to read, Tracy Solheim’s Risky Game.  This is the third book in the Game On series (if you do not count the anthology that was released in April).  This book does not come out until May 6th so it will be a race to finish it before the meeting considering  some of us have not read any other the previous books.  Again, if you have read any of the books, give us a holler.  We love to hear from you.

Smoochies,

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Krispy Treat Hit and Miss

As I mentioned last week, I made a lot of rice krispy treats.  I made five types…some were a hit, some were not.  Here’s my recap.  NOTE: There are a lot of photos in this post because….I made a lot of rice krispy treats.

I decided to make Strawberry, Vanilla Bean, Cake Batter, Butterscotch White Chocolate, and Caramel with salted Chocolate.

Can you guess what were the hits and which were the misses?

First I started with two HUGE bags of rice cereal and five 10 oz bags of marshmallows.  I decided to go with the store brand to see if these was something that doesn’t make a difference or not and I was making a lot of treats.  I will say now, the treats that were hits were hits regardless of the maker of the basic ingredients and the misses were because they were – let’s face it – just not the right ones for my taste palette.

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The first treat I made was the strawberry.  It required half of a box of strawberry gelatin to be added to the basic krispy treat recipe (6 cups of puff rice cereal, 1/2 cup of butter, 1 tsp of vanilla extract, and 1 10 oz bag of marshmallows).

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I melted one stick of butter, then added 1 bag of marshmallows.

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I melted the marshmallows and butter in 30 second increments that took about 1 minute total.

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I added about 3 tbsp of strawberry gelatin to the marshmallow butter mixture.

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Then my six cups of cereal

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I then pressed my mixture into a greased tin pan (I bought a four pack) and let them sit.

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Next I made the Vanilla Bean treats.  For these I decided to try margarine to compare flavors – I have decided that I like the flavor of butter better.  The recipe is very similar: 4 tbsp of margarine, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tsp vanilla bean paste, 10oz marshmallows, 6 cups of puffed rice cereal.

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To my marshmallow and margarine mixture I added 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste and 1 tsp of vanilla.

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These were a lot sticker, so I had to spray my hands with a little of cooking spray to press these into the pan.

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Third I made the cake batter treats.  This recipe called for the addition of cake mix – 4 tbsp of butter, 10 oz marshmallow, 1/2 cup cake mix, 5 cups of puffed rice cereal, and 1 container of sprinkles.

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1/2 cup to be exact

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At the last minute I realized I had forgotten to buy the sprinkles and I had none in my pantry.  I did have tons of sparkling sugar though.

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After I pressed the treats into the pan, I used my multi-colored sugar and went to town to add some color.

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Butterscotch White Chocolate Cereal Treats was next on the list.  This recipe required

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Butterscotch chips and one of my favorite ingredients

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Peanut Butter!

This recipe did not need a fat ingredient, getting it’s fat from the peanut butter and chips.

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I added white chocolate chips to my mixture because the original recipe called White Chocolate Wonder by Peanut Butter & Co.  I didn’t have that, but I did have some white chocolate chips and some peanut butter, so I tried my own version.

 

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Once it was smooth, I added the puffed rice cereal and smooshed it into the pan.  Then I started thinking lets add some melted white chocolate over the top.

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Butterscotch White Chocolate Rice Krispy Treats : 1 bag butterscotch morsels, 1 cup peanut butter, 1/4 cup white chocolate chips, 6 cups puffed rice cereal.  Combine butterscotch morsels, peanut butter and white chocolate chips.  Melt in microwave about 1 min (in 30 second intervals).  Add rice cereal.  Press into 8×8 lightly greased pan.

 

The final treat I made, Caramel with Salted Chocolate, required caramel.  So, I made caramel.  I did this by combining 1/2 cup of sugar with 2 tbsp of water and placing them over med/high heat.

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I left that mixture alone until it began to turn amber around the edges.

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At that point I removed it from the heat and began whisking.

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I then added 2 1/2 tbsp of softened butter to the mixture and whisked again.  Once that was incorporated, I added 1/4 cup of warm whipping cream.

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Now that my caramel sauce was done, I melted my butter and marshmallows.

 

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Then I combined the caramel sauce and marshmallow mixture.

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I added my cereal, 6 cups, and smooshed into a greased pan.  I then made the ganache my pouring 3/4 cup of very warm heavy cream over 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

 

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I let my ganache sit for a few minutes then poured it over my treats.  Maybe I should have placed the treats in the frig, but I’m not a huge fan of overly cold desserts.  Cheesecake, lemon meringue pie, key lime pie, jello, and a few other desserts should be cold…Rice Krispy treats, in my opinion, should not.  Oh yeah…after I let the ganache sit a little while I sprinkled the top with sea salt.

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But maybe if I had my ganache would not have seeped through. 😦

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Here’s the recipe: Salted Chocolate Caramel Rice Krispy Treats (courtesy of http://www.yourcupofcake.com)

Caramel: 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tbsp water 2 1/2 tbsp of softened butter, 1/4 cup heavy cream

Cereal Treats: 1 10 oz bag marshmallows, 2 tbsp of butter, 1 tsp vanilla, 6 cups puffed rice cereal, and caramel sauce

Ganache: 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, 3/4 cup heavy cream, Sea salt for sprinkling on top

Make the caramel sauce: Place cream in small pan and warm, but do not boil (I actually placed mine in a small ceramic bowl and placed it in the microwave for 30 seconds right before I added to sugar mixture).  Combine sugar and water in small pan over med/high heat.  Leave alone until the edges begin to turn amber.  Turn off the heat and begin whisking.  Add the butter and continue whisking.  Add warmed cream and whisk.  Place to the side.

Make cereal treats: Melt butter and marshmallows.  Add vanilla to marshmallow mixture.  Add caramel sauce to mixture.  Add rice cereal and combine.  Press into lightly greased pan.  Set aside and make ganache.

Make ganache: Place chocolate chips in bowl.  Heat cream just until it is about to boil.  Pour hot cream over chips and whisk until chocolate is melted and smooth.  Allow to sit and cool a few minutes.  Then pour over treats.  Tilt pan to allow even coating of treats.  Let sit a few minutes more then lightly sprinkle with sea salt.      

Here are all of the treats lined up on my dining room table setting and waiting to be cut.

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Now to tell you about my hits and misses.  Did you figure out which was which?

 

Strawberry was a phenomenal hit!!!  Babydoll and her sleepover guest loved them and any others that were left was taken as a dessert treat with lunch this week.

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Vanilla Bean and Cake Batter were also hits!  They weren’t as well liked/loved as the strawberry by Babydoll, but they are her backups.

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The Butterscotch White Chocolate was just too sweet for my palette.  As much as I love peanut butter, I could not take how sweet it was.  If I attempt them again I think I will cut the butterscotch morsels by half and double the peanut butter.  I will search the store aisle and find the White Chocolate Wonder and use that also instead of my own version.

 

 

 

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Finally, the Salted Chocolate Caramel was a big miss.  I believe a lot of this had to do with the fact that the ganache seemed into the actual bar.  This changed the texture of the bar and made it something I really did not want to eat.  In the future, I think I will make these without the ganache top and just do the caramel krispy treats.

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That was my Saturday, off & on because I took Sasha to get a haircut and met Stan and the girls (Babydoll and her sleepover guest) for lunch after he took the girls skating and dropped off his car at repair center.

I found several other recipes for rice krispy treats that I will try another time (they tend to be a big hit at gifts at my Girlfriends Dinner party).  I’m excited to try the pumpkin spice.  Plus I still have 3/4 of a bag of cereal to use up.  Do you have a variation that you would like to share?  I’m open to suggestions.

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Sorry about the picture quality, first I am not nor do I claim to be a food photographer; and second I re-sized these pictures in WordPress, something I stopped doing a long time ago when I began using Windows Live Writer.  I had already transferred the draft to WordPress and decided to finish up here before I had decided on size of pictures.  There were so many I pictures I didn’t want it to take too long to transfer.  Lesson learned, I will complete my editing in Live Writer from now on. 🙂    

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Menu 3/2/14

Happy Friday Everyone,

Here’s what we’re having this week.  Have a great weekend. 🙂

Sunday: Roasted Bone-in chicken breast with Creamy Orzo and roasted Asparagus

Monday: I will be making Stan a childhood favorite – Chipped Beef on Texas Toast and Babydoll and I will have soup and Sandwiches (we may try the chipped beef instead of the sandwich), soup wise I’m thinking I will take one of my Bear Creek packages and do a quickie soup.  I’ll Tweet which one I decide on.  There’s supposed to be a huge snow storm on Sunday so the soup will be much appreciated.

Tuesday:  Chili Dogs and Tater Tots with Fruit Salad.  This has to be a really quick meal because last week we finally found a new dance school for Babydoll and it looks like we will be in school from 5:30-7:30 with back-to-back dance classes.

Wednesday: Taco Salad (another late night – Babydoll has choir practice)

Thursday: Turkey Manhattan with chopped Spinach

Friday: It’s a work night, it’s every-man-for-themselves

Saturday: Chili

Have a great week. 🙂

 

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I’ve been doing some business work

Hey Guys…

I’ve been doing some thinking about my business and the direction I want it to move in.  One of the things that I’ve been really wanting is a logo.  Through the years I had attempted to create my own logo using the clip art available online, but I hadn’t been too pleased with the result.  I had just settled.

Recently, my husband had his logo designed on a website, www.fiverr.com.  I was really impressed with the work that was done for him and decided to give it a shot.

The premise of Fiverr is that they will work on different things like logo’s, Facebook/twitter banners, business cards, etc for a nominal fee – usually starting around $5, hence the name fiverr.  You can search the many graphic artist to find the one that has the skills/qualities that you are looking for.  The turn-around-time is dependent on how busy your designer is, but it can range from 3 days to 21 days (or more, I think).  Based upon the designer you chose, you chose the turn-around-time that works best for you.

I chose to work with the designer hi5_fiverr and I was very impressed and pleased with the outcome.  🙂 What do you think?

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So this is the new logo for Red Oven Creations, the business side.  I haven’t quite figured out how to incorporate into my blog page or even the Red Oven page of the blog.  I really like having pictures of all aspects of this blog on the banner.  I’m open to suggestions though, so send them on. I will be using the logo for all the business areas; I’ll be ordering new business cards, notecards, and more soon.  I have some other thoughts about what I want to do for Red Oven also.  I’m working on the logistics for it, but stay tuned for future announcements.

On a final note, I just want to send a shout out to www.fiverr.com, if you are in the market for marketing materials and you are wanting to get started on a small budget, I highly suggest them.  Like I said earlier I am really happy with the work that was done for me and I was impressed with my husbands new logo. I also have someone working on the logo for my bookclub (we’ll reveal that on that blog page when it’s ready – www.sugarbookclub.wordpress.com).  Have a great day.

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I found a new author…

I have a new author that I want to talk about. She is not a new author, and I have read all of the books from two of her series. Her name is Laurann Dohner. Yes, Laurann Dohner. She is an author that is part of the Ellora’s Cave publishing house. If you know anything about Ellora’s Cave, you know that the majority of their books are on the steamy side. Some of my favorite authors have come out of Ellora’s Cave – Jade Black and Laura Leigh just to mention a few. I was first introduced to Laurann this past summer when we were on our way to the Lori Foster Reader Appreciation Weekend (an annual trip for my book club). At that time three of my book club members were discussing the books. Two of us had not read nor heard of the books; but the discussion was so very intriguing. I was driving but Bertlyn checked her reader to see if she had the books on her reader because Tish said she had shared them with everyone. Bertlyn found them and began reading the first book. By the time we headed home she had finished the first book and was reading the second. I don’t remember what I was reading at the time, but I remember I wasn’t in a position to start the series. I believe it was another two months before I started it. By that time another book was released and everyone was raving about it (when I say everyone; that means my fellow book club members).

The first book had me hooked and I went through every one that I had back-to-back. The series that I’m talking about is the New Species series. It is about a species of humans that have been created by splicing animal and human DNA. They were created to be used as super soldiers and for other experiments. The stories are about how the species are dealing with their recent release, adjusting to living outside of the torture that they had endured, dealing with hate groups, the government, finding other members of their species, and finally, trusting, befriending and finding love with humans –full humans. I loved the series because the characters –the new species – were so endearing to me. They had an innocence about them that was a contradiction to the knowledge of suffering and torture that they endured. There are nine books in the series thus far, with promises of more to come. The books could be read as standalone novels, but I would recommend starting from the beginning. The series order is as follows: Fury, Slade, Valliant, Justice, Brawn, Wrath, Tiger, Obsidian, & Shadow.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the second series of Laurann’s that I’m currently finishing up. The Cyborg series.

These books are a little shorter in length than the New Species series (averaging around 160 pages on my Nook), but that does not diminish the story content. As a matter of fact, these are another series that I have read back-to-back with no problems (When I say with no problems, I mean that I don’t feel like I need to cleanse my genre palate. This can sometimes happen when I read a series consecutively. I’m digressing.) . The Cyborg series was recommended to me months ago by Ramona – from book club. She had read these before the New Species series and said that they were steamy and with a bit of humor included. I need to take a moment out to confess to you guys that my TBR (to be read) list is crazy long. I have heard people say “I don’t have anything to do read now.” I don’t understand that concept. I always have something to read! Now whether or not I want to read it is a different story. So I finally broke down and started the Cyborg series. Ramona was very correct. It is steamy and I found myself chuckling or smiling at the cyborgs. The Cyborgs are a race of people that was somewhat created by the government by growing test tube babies that were later outfitted with cybertronic implants to make them better soldiers and workers that the government thought they would be able to control (Governmental research is a trip isn’t it? I decided before I graduated that I didn’t want to work for a government research company just because I didn’t want to ever face the possibility of compromising my morals). When they realized that they couldn’t control them, they deemed them unstable and ordered the mass destruction; the cyborgs escaped and fled to another planet far away from Earth and are hiding from Earth trying to live out the rest of their lives in peace. There are still hostile feelings towards humans by some and they have laws that deem any humans as property and not citizens. The Cyborgs rely on logic and not emotions to make decisions. This is what leads to the bits of humor. They don’t understand human slang and they take everything literally. I have loved them, so much in fact that I have found myself becoming aggravated with outside forces like work and family that have kept me from spending all my time reading. I mean who wants to work, or cook, or clean, or help with homework right? The 6th book of the series was about the character that everyone has disliked throughout the series thus far, but when it was all said and done, I ended up liking him. Really!!! How does that happen? She’s just that good.

I highly recommend any books that Laurann Dohner has written. I haven’t read them all, but if the two series that I have read so far are any indication, then I feel confident in stating that you won’t be disappointed. Her books are steamy, they have a bit of humor and you really fall in love with all the characters – even the secondary’s.

Also if you want a good steamy read, and I have to say that based upon the huge interest in the Fifty Shades trilogy people love a little steamy, you should give some of the authors from Ellora’s Cave a try. These authors have been doing what E.L. James has been doing for years and possibly doing it a little better, I’m not knocking her, just saying she’s not the first.  It’s amazing how genre gets a book that an awesome Publisher and great marketing department invest some time in and when people pick it up they think they’ve found something new.  It’s not new; it’s just marketed better.

So, have you found any new authors that I should take a look at?  Share…I can always make my TBR a little longer.

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No Gluten for me, please

Happy Monday everyone,

I hope that everyone had a great Father’s Day and that your Dad’s were appreciated accordingly. 

I decided to cook brunch for my father and husband this year.  I did this for two reasons: 1) we are about to go on vacation next week and I must reserve as much moula as possible for the trip; and 2) one of my best friends, Sylvana, was in town and we had decided that I would cook for her when she came because she had not yet seen the house and she loves my cooking.

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She’s going to kill me for putting her picture out there because she has on no makeup, but I think she’s beautiful even when relaxing before a plane ride.  Sylvana has a wonderful job as a Project Manager for a CRO (Clinical Research Org) that has cause her to move away from me so I’m really happy to get the opportunity to hang with her whenever I can.  Her visits are never really long because she travels so much for work, so when we were planning this visit we had to make every moment count. 

Last week when I was planning my menu for brunch I had all these things pop into my head that would be awesome and that I know she, my dad, and husband would love.  Suddenly I remembered that I need to bring it back a notch because Syl has recently switched to a gluten-free diet, due to medical reasons.  What to do…what to do? I knew I could cook some main dishes gluten-free, but what about dessert?  I did some pricing research for gluten-free flour and I picked my mouth up off the floor and started thinking again.  ($6 for a 2 1/2 lb bag of flour people…really 😦 )  I thought I would make something light a refreshing and something I know she’ll love…Lemon Tarts. 🙂  Right up until Sunday morning I was thinking I would do a graham cracker crust for the tarts.  I awoke at 4 am and thought, NO!!! graham crackers are made with flour you goof-ball.  Right after it hit me…RICE FLOUR.  I’m going to make a regular pastry using rice flour instead of all-purpose flour. 

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Using my “Joy of Cooking” Flaky Pastry Recipe, I substituted the rice flour for the all-purpose flour. The end result seemed a little grainier than what my regular pastry dough felt like.  018

This is what it looked like before I added the ice water.  Looks about the same right?  It just felt a little different.  After adding the water and getting it formed into a ball (I have found that when I’m making bread and pastry/pie dough I like to do the process by hand and have stopped using the mixer – with dough hook, and food processor) I didn’t want to chance trying to roll the pastry out later.  I grabbed my jumbo muffin tin and pressed the dough in the cups and placed the tin in the frig to chill while I made the filling. 

The crust weren’t the prettiest things in the world, but they turned out really good.  I had to pack Sylvana’s to go because she had a plane to catch and she had stuffed herself with brunch she couldn’t eat the dessert protion (she thought the fruit parfait was dessert :)) .  I had one served with whipped cream and I had to toot my own horn.  Toot Toot!  They were really light and the crust was still flaky and tasted great.  I guess I can go gluten-free.

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Do you have any great gluten-free dessert recipes?  I would love to hear about them.

 

Gluten-Free Pastry Dough

2 1/2 cups rice flour

1/2 cup shortening, chilled

1/2 cup butter, very cold

1 tsp sugar

pinch of salt

enough ice water to bring together, about 1/3 cup

Combine flour, sugar, and salt.  Cut in the shortening and butter using a pastry blender until pea-sized balls are seen. (See picture above.  You could also use a food processor but you should pulse until you get the right consistency).  Slowly add water – I used a tablespoon and added the first 5 then mixed and added a tablespoon at a time to make sure that I didn’t add too much liquid.  When it seems as if it’s maybe going to come together then you should move it to your countertop and bring together to form a ball.  At this point you can wrap it in plastic wrap to chill or press into your pan to form your pastry.  If you  go straight to the pan I would suggest you place it in the frig to chill before baking or filling.

Lemon Tart Filling (courtesy of Paula Dean)

2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (I used 2 1/2 lemons)

2 tbsp sour cream

4 eggs

1/2 cup sugar (her recipe called for confectioners sugar but I used granulated)

Zest of a lemon (her recipe did not call for this, but I added because I just had to. 😉

Combine the ingredients and pour into “blind-baked” tart shells.  Bake 18-20 minutes.  Let them cool and serve with whipped cream.

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Lawn & Patio

As I’ve may have mentioned before our back yard is a blank canvas.

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We entertain quite a bit and our previous home had the backyard that allowed for all of our outdoor entertaining needs.  One of the first “projects” that we have set is to get something going with the landscaping and backyard portion of our home.

A couple of weekends ago The Lawn and Patio Show came to our town.  WooHoo! Smile  The family packed up and headed out (camera in hand).  So many pretty flowers and trees.  So many pretty flowers and trees.

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I don’t know about anyone else, but I love, love, love Hydrangeas.  I want about 10 bushes in my backyard, but I’ve heard their hard to grow.  Sad smile

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We will soon have a wonderful fence put up.  We’ve never had a fence before, just liked the open feel you get from not having a fence.  But now we live on a corner lot, so decided to go with a wrought iron fence (actually it’s aluminum – you get the same look without the possibility of rust or the high cost).  Once we have our fence in place we’ll have the front yard landscaping done and then move on to the patio and deck.  We’re still trying to figure out what to do.  Here are a few options…

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We definitely want some type of pergola or way to provide shade.

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We have space for something this grand.

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Definitely want a space to have a seat.  And since we are definitely getting concrete, I’ve been checking out different ways to keep it from looking so bland.  I’m loving this…

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Yep, that’s stamped concrete.  How about something like this for a pathway option?

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I couldn’t my post without a shot of the baby doll in all of her perfect posing beauty.  She came up with that pose herself.  Can you tell why I call her baby doll?

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If you have any great ideas for landscaping or patio décor, I’d love to hear about it.

Lonnita

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